CHARLES GILICHIBI | Goilala District Development Forum | Extracts
TO ALL THE WONDERFUL ANGELS of change in social media and in particular, Facebook, you’ve done wonderfully well in 2013. Never underestimate your contributions in the year that was.
Progress is built on the stock of past performance and without what we have collectively accomplished in 2013, we may not aspire to greater achievements in 2014.
If we hadn’t tried to blow the whistle on corruption, keep the heat on bad leadership and mobilise communities to action, then we would have failed. In our individual and collective capacities we have tried and here are a few successes.
1. Spreading stories of national and local significance and blowing the whistle on corruption related activities that would otherwise not be covered in mainstream media
2. Capturing the attention of the Prime Minister, the Opposition Leader and everyone else on either side or in between that Social Media is a force that can hold people in authority accountable for their decisions and actions.
3. Mobilising collective action of people from a myriad of backgrounds and interests to common purposes
4. Ensuring hot issues of national importance are carried weeks or months on end and are not swept under the carpet. Mainstream media with less than 300 journalists don’t have the capacity and resources to do just that compared with 300,000 Papua New Guineans on Facebook.
Positives aside, we also faced some challenges in 2013.
Firstly, the biggest setback in years past was a lack of social media leadership with vision and purpose. We can attest that 2013 was the watershed year where we started infusing leadership as the glue that would pull together people and lead them with a common sense of purpose so everyone doesn’t misfire in a million directions.
As a result we formed a leadership group of Social Media Activists and Coalition Partners (SMACP) that so far has proven to be an enduring group of like-minded individuals where personal differences are set aside for the sake of taking up a common purpose for all on social media.
It should also be noted that this group sacrifices a lot of their time and resources which only a few individuals are willing to give freely.
SMACP is an umbrella group that covers all PNG Facebook forums, individual social media activists on Facebook, Blogs, Twitter and other websites, and people doing similar activism on the streets such as NGOs and civil society interest groups.
Secondly, resourcing the efforts of social media activism is the second biggest hurdle besides the lack of leadership. We cannot translate talk to action when we don’t have the resources to pull off successful protests, to create major awareness on the streets and mainstream media to complement our social media efforts.
To judge the efforts of social media harshly by saying that it didn’t amount to much in 2013 is akin to listening to a leader who can’t do something but expects his followers to perform miracles.
SMACP will be registered in 2014 as a vehicle to pool resources from many people who would like to support financially both in PNG and from overseas diaspora. We will appoint a credible accounting firm to audit the books pro bono and have in place accountability and transparency mechanisms so that everyone who supports social media activism can see value for where your money is spent.
Thirdly, one of the unspoken or unnoticed hurdles is expectations. We should be very mindful that a good number of things we want to see happen are beyond our control and we can only try to bring enough pressure to bear by our leaders and authorities that be to make good laws, decisions and provide good stewardship on the distribution and use of public resources.
We should be very mindful and be very careful not to create cargo-cult like platforms on which social media activism rides on. As an example, we should not encourage excessive expectations on social media to change governments; we can only influence but are not the 111 MPs on the floor of Parliament who can actually change governments or prime ministers.
Unlike a leader promising so much cargo in the form of roads, bridges, schools and hospitals and who keeps promising that cargo will come, SMACP must play to avoid that trap.
SMACP has a long-term view of where we’re going. We don’t have the power to change society but we want to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself.
If we start thinking immediate-term, we will be playing to cargo-cultist leadership. We promise you change will come tomorrow. Then it never comes tomorrow and we promise you tomorrow, and tomorrow and change never comes.
Our leaders have already spoilt the people with such cargo-cultist ideology so we will leave them to deal with that and don’t want that same ideology extend to social media activism.
Fourthly, PNG News is a member of SMACP with the sole purpose of extending the reach of stories of national significance that are covered by mainstream media to people and places that mainstream media would not normally reach.
It is also a medium to break stories that would otherwise not be covered in mainstream media. Given our handicap in resources, that’s where our role ends as clearly stated in our mission statement and the long-term view of SMACP: “To inform the collective PNG conscience, shape public opinion and be a catalyst for change at all levels of society.